Federal Court Considers Oklahoma Shariah Ban

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


On Monday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals began hearings on a constitutional challenge to Oklahoma’s ban on Shariah law.

The amendment to the state’s constitution was approved by popular vote—more than 70 percent of Oklahomans voted for it. But although singling out Muslims for official disapproval might have been a workable strategy for getting out the vote, it may doom the law in court. Reuters reports:

The panel gave no indication how it would rule, but at least one judge, Scott Matheson, asked why the measure was crafted to apply explicitly to just one religion.

“There’s no mention of any other specific law,” Matheson said in the hearing. “We just have Sharia law singled out.”

Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick replied, “The intent here was to exclude Sharia law and international law.”

Matheson asked, “Why is there any need to mention Sharia law,” to which Wyrick answered: “To avoid confusion.”

Often questions from judges during oral arguments are less about getting information than making a point, and in this case Obama-appointee Matheson (the older brother of Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat) seemed to be offering Wyrick a chance to explain the ban’s obvious problems. Instead, Wyrick just reiterated that the law was targeting a particular religion, lest anyone get confused. That’s unusual. Laws explicitly singling out certain religions are rare, precisely because the authors of those laws know that doing poses obvious constitutional problems that could lead to the measures being overturned. In previous cases like this, lawmakers have at least tried to pretend that there was a compelling public interest beyond simply curtailing the religious activities of one particular group. But thanks to the language of the amendment and the public statements of Oklahoma lawmakers, there’s little doubt who the amendment was targeting. 

Oklahoma’s Shariah law ban was called the “Save Our State Amendment,” but only in the most fevered imaginations is Tulsa in danger of being annexed by Islamic extremists. Instead, the ban will simply interfere with the ability of Muslim Oklahomans to execute wills and uphold business contracts drafted according to their religious beliefs. There is no danger of “Shariah” replacing American law. Where religious practices come into contact with civil law, the latter prevails.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate